The High Line

If Buzzfeed's to be believed, the High Line is apparently a source of conflict among New Yorkers. Truth be told, the first time I set foot on this aerial park built on abandoned rail tracks, I was underwhelmed. But to be fair, I lived two blocks away from Central Park back then and was spoiled with daily exposure to lush greenery, so it was tough to get excited over the few little shrubs that were just starting to grow on the railway. Through the years, however, I've grown to love the High Line. It's a treat to have this little bit of greensward in the middle of the city where one can sit, stroll, tan, and even enjoy an artisanal popsicle or a glass of wine. As the High Line continues to expand northward, its character just keeps on growing.

During my family's visit to New York last week, I took them to see this unusual little park. I had been wanting to check out the newest and northernmost part of the park since finding out that El Anatsui had an installation on one of the buildings flanking the old railway. If you remember, I fell in love with El Anatsui's work after seeing his exhibition Gravity and Grace at the Brooklyn Museum. This installation was just as breathtaking as his other monumental pieces. Dubbed Broken Bridge II, it is El Anatsui's largest installation to date. Sheets of pressed tin woven with mirrors hang off the side of a building, reflecting the surrounding area as it changes with the seasons. On the day of our visit, the glass seemed to melt into the impossibly blue skies over New York.

This part of the High Line has fantastic views of some choice urban art. The best of the lot were these vibrant murals by Eduardo Kobra on 25th Street. The top is a technicolor rendering of that iconic photograph of that iconic V-J Day kiss, while the bottom depicts a vintage Times Square street scene.

There's plenty of eye candy on this part of the High Line, from the art perched on the grounds to voyeuristic glimpses of the lives of New Yorkers in the buildings grazing the railway. Then there are those stunning views of the Empire State Building peeking through the greenery.

I thought the juxtaposition of that modern marvel against the Gothic structure of the Desmond Tutu Center was particularly lovely—echoing that wonderful melding of the old with the new that the High Line is known for.

I hope to squeeze in a few more stops at the High Line before the season ends. If you're ever in the city, ignore the arguing New Yorkers and see this unusual Big Apple gem for yourself. 

A Piece of Art to Call My Own

I few months ago, I did something which I thought was very grown up: I commissioned my very first piece of art! I spent my first year in my apartment furnishing it—you know, buying things I actually needed: a proper bed to sleep on, a dining table to hypothetically eat on, and a couch to actually do everything on (including eating and sleeping). It wasn't until year two began that the empty space above the couch that I spend so much time on started to bug me. It was time for some art.

My search eventually brought me to Stasia Burrington, a Seattle-based artist who creates beautiful nudes draped and showered with flowers she cuts out of quilts.
I got in touch with Stasia through her Etsy store initially because I wanted to order one of her prints in a larger size. After exchanging a few messages, however, I found out that it was actually possible to commission an original piece that would fit my space and my budget. Depending on the size of the piece, a custom piece can run for approximately $200 to 500. Considering that the cost of a large print can run over $100 (and that the cost of framing is usually far higher than whatever it is you're actually having framed), a custom piece was well worth the money.

Stasia started the process by asking me what I specifically liked about the pieces I had initially inquired about. I told her why I liked certain poses, what I liked revealed and concealed on the female form, and which colors drew me in. She sent me some sketches, and once I chose one I liked, she went to work quickly. In a matter of hours, she sent me picture after picture of the work in progress, from the watercolor to the cutting of flowers. It was thrilling to see the art come together.

The finished product took my breath away. It was everything I wanted, from the beautiful colors to the figure Stasia drew and painted that's sensual without revealing too much. I even like how the girl ended up looking somewhat similar to me, even though it isn't me at all.

After much procrastination, I finally got around to having the piece framed and hung (with much thanks to my New York mom and dad, Bads and Bong). And here, at long last, is my original Stasia Burrington piece, in a place of pride in my humble abode:

Thank you for creating something so wonderful for me, Stasia! I will cherish it for many years to come.

To see more of Stacia's work or to commission a custom piece of your own, visit her website at

Yuji Ramen Test Kitchen

When we think about ramen, what usually comes to mind is a steaming bowl of noodles flavored with soy or tonkotsu, and loaded up with unctuous slices of pork. It wasn't until I encountered Yuji Ramen at Smorgasburg that I realized there was another kind of ramen: mazemen or "mixed noodles." A newer iteration of ramen, mazemen infuses noodles with complex flavors through the addition of sauces, oils, gelees, and other surprising ingredients.

We got to experience just how astonishingly inventive ramen can be when we sat for chef Yuji Haraguchi's five-course omakase at the Yuji Ramen Test Kitchen in Smorgasburg's Bowery Whole Foods outpost. Chef Yuji's approach is modern and thoughtful. His noodles are handmade, his seafood locally sourced, and his shoyu ramen broth flavored using bones and cast-offs from Whole Foods' butchers and fishmongers.

Our first course was a salmon and cheese mazemen, which sounded bizarre but made complete sense once I took a bite. The Camembert cheese was very subtle, giving the perfectly chewy ramen a creamy taste that's harmonious with the succulent house-cured salmon. Crispy salmon skin, taken from the same piece of fish, added a nice crunch; a sqeeze of lemon gave just the right splash of acidity; and julienned purple and green shiso leaves gave a hint of  freshnes. Together with the shredded nori on top, the dish calls to mind a deconstructed Philadelphia roll, elevated several degrees.

The second course blew my mind. Simply described on the menu as "squid", this course featured ramen shells flavored and colored with squid ink—ikazumi. I absolutely love squid ink pasta and paella, so this dish was right up my alley. The ramen is cooked in a tomato broth and topped with squid ragu and breadcrumbs mixed with nori. It was hearty, heartwarming and delicious. My dining companions weren't fans of the particular taste of squid ink, but I am still day-dreaming about it.

The dish that made everyone sit up and take notice was the third course. First of all, when you think of ramen, this isn't exactly the visual you'd expect, right?

Chef Yuji made these little pieces of ravioli out of soba flour and filled them with ankimo or monkfish liver, aptly known as the foie gras of the sea. It was decadent and delicious, and all that was needed was a bit of freshly grated wasabi, a tiny shiso leaf, and strips of radish.

The fourth course featuring clams was both a dish and an experience. Chef Yuji handed us bowls containing a pretty concoction of chilled ramen broth, ponzu, soy sauce, yuzu gelee, cucumber puree, poached clams, bits of bacon, and even a pretty edible flower. Next, he gave us bowls of steaming ramen, into which we were told to pour in our bowl of ingredients and mix, witnessing the changes in textures. My inner 5-year-old always enjoys playing with my food, and at any age, I do love a dish as hearty yet multilayered as this one.

Our final dish was a bit of a spectacle. Chef Yuji took a blowtorch to a tray of empty mussel shells, which he then placed in individual French coffee presses. The mussel shells were then dusted with bonito flakes, topped off with steaming broth, and allowed to steep, before we had the pleasure of crushing down the shells to impart a smoky flavor to the soup. This soup was then poured into our individual bowls of ramen topped with mussels, green onions and nori. As the day's broth was made with some beef bones, the resulting bowl of ramen had an incredibly comforting soup full of beef and smoky mussel flavor. Absolutely delicious.

If you haven't snagged a seat for chef Yuji's highly popular omakase yet, start stalking the Yuji Ramen Twitter account to find out when tickets go on sale next. Until then, you can try the a la carte options at the Yuji Ramen Test Kitchen, or stop by the Yuji Ramen stand at Smorgasburg in Williamsburg on Saturdays and Dumbo on Sundays. Happy slurping!